Tom Brady’s return to New England on Sunday night to lead the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers against his former Patriots isn’t just the talk of the NFL, it might just be the biggest story in the country.
So it’s no surprise that when Bill Belichick’s assistant coaches were made available to the media via Zoom on Tuesday that many were asked for their thoughts on Brady’s impending return to Gillette Stadium and facing the guy who helped the Patriots reach unprecedented levels of success in his two decades in Foxborough.
“I love Tom Brady,” veteran running backs coach Ivan Fears said. “I always have. I spent 20 years with the young guy. I’m very honored to have been a part of the team with him. I still think he’s the greatest. But right now, that SOB is the enemy. So, however you put it … I still love him. I think he’s a great person. But I’m not going to be sharing any love when it comes to game time. We’ll share that love afterwards, when it’s all said and done. I think he’s a hell of a player, he’s a great person, a hell of a player, hell of a leader. God, he’s got all that stuff going. We miss him. Well, I should say I miss him as a person . . . right now I’m happy for him, for the success he’s had. And I’m looking forward to trying to beat his butt. That’s what counts. That’s all that matters right now. We’re going after each other. Too bad I can’t be out there (laughter).”
While Troy Brown is now coaching the Patriots wide receivers, once upon a time he was the original slot option in the developing Brady-led passing attack in New England, catching 101 ball from the future GOAT in his first season as a starter in 2001. It’s kind of crazy where the two were way back then in the beginning and where they are now, set to do battle from opposite sidelines on Sunday.
“I think if anybody can pull it off, it would be Tom Brady,” Brown said of his former QB’s never-ending career. “He's been that type of guy his entire career. No reason to think that he wouldn't still be playing.
He said when he came into the league that he would play forever. And so, he's trying to make that come true, I guess.”
Jerod Mayo spent eight seasons as Brady’s teammate as a first-round linebacker and team captain from 2008-15. Now Mayo coaches the inside linebackers in New England and the longevity of his former quarterback’s career hit him as he began preparations to take on Tampa Bay.
“It's truly amazing. He's been playing at a high level for a long time. When we got the depth charts and it said how many years he was playing, I was like, his career alone is old enough to drink. It's crazy,” Mayo said of Brady going strong in his 22nd NFL season.